When I first became a mother, I lived eight hours from family while my husband worked on his Ph.D. He was as present as possible while working toward that goal, but most of my days were spent alone, facing the challenge of keeping a baby alive and thriving for the first time in my life. Phone calls to my mother were mostly tear fests, me sobbing about the usual loss of sleep and tedium of the first year in a newborn’s life. I was happy to be a mom, but I felt so isolated that the sadness often overcame the joy.
Not long after our son was born, I was standing in the window of our ranch house, rocking my son and bleakly staring at the window, when I saw two other moms with infants walking together down the street. I nearly tripped over myself to race out to greet them, so deep was my loneliness. What started that day were friendships that got me through that lonely season. The women, Dara Lynn and Leigh Ann, were also new mothers, and we shared a reliance on God, something that was probably more acute for us then than any other time in our lives.
Over the next year of walks and play dates, we shared with each other the beautiful, overwhelming, and lonely burden of spending every minute of every day in the service of our children. We needed each other. We needed to be reminded of how to speak in full sentences, of our value beyond cleaning up the constant onslaught of spit-up. We needed to be reminded that the call to motherhood is God’s work.
The older I get and the bigger my family becomes, the more deeply I need other faith-filled moms to bring me back to that centering point, to remind me of the corporal works of mercy and the inherent grace of mothering. The problem is that most of us are too busy to feed these much-needed relationships. We need them desperately, but we cannot find time for them. I put the question to some of my mom friends, those women whose mere existence makes me feel stronger, fortified, ready for the challenge of another day of mothering. I asked them to talk about the value of their friendships with other Christian moms and how they sustain those friendships during this busy season.
My sister-in-law Nicole, mother of nine, said:
“My friends from our old church in Pennsylvania and I made a point to get together for ‘tea’ every few weeks. When the kids were little, this was my lifeline. Once they put their school kids on the bus, they would head over to my house. We would just sit around the table and drink coffee or tea and eat muffins or breakfast type things, while the kids would play together in the living room. It was so nice to know that all of the insanity that comes along with babies and kids and marriages and life was normal. To have that group of moms that understood me and where I was at that point in my life was crucial. We talked about everything from our Catholic faith to potty training, from kids starting kindergarten to kids going off to college. We saw each other through everything from colicky babies and diaper rash to battling cancer and losing parents. Having these women who were not just friends but friends in faith, was a blessing from God alone … I don’t know what I would have done without them. It was only a few hours every few weeks, but it allowed for grown up interaction, which is soooooo needed, especially when your days are centered around naptime and Paw Patrol. It has provided me with a network of prayer warriors to pray for me and with me when I don’t have the strength to do it alone.”
My friend Jess, mother of five and a military wife said:
“I am particularly bad at making time for friendships with other moms…I moved to Indiana and at first I didn’t have a job, I just stayed at home with Padraic, but being a military family in a non-traditional military area where other people didn’t ‘know the struggle’ and the ‘normal’ for us, it was hard to find any friends.
I could have really used some friends. My close friend from high school lives in Nebraska, and I would call her on the phone, sometimes late at night close to tears, trying to figure out how to balance my life … When spit-up and diapers and isolation crept in, she would remind me that I was giving my children a small glimpse at the love God has for them and that you can find the corporal acts of mercy in motherhood.
Since moving here, to our parish, the mom’s group has been a great place to meet other moms, get fresh ideas for introducing aspects of our faith to kids, reminding me that I’m not the only one who feels adrift sometimes. It also helps me to keep my faith life from getting sidelined … I recognize that my life is better with a community of Catholic moms, but I think I’m still figuring out how to make and foster these friendships. I’m really grateful to our church for allowing the mom’s group to start up and I hope to start interacting with more moms outside of the group.”
Lisa, a mother of three, talks of a group she met through Facebook. After her second child, her faith life began to grow and she struggled through that time of transition trying to find women with shared experiences who could feed her faith:
“Around the same time, I had made a friend with someone at my church who we began socializing with. Then I went to a Catholic mom’s play group at a friend’s house … this is my miracle … there I met five other moms and over the last three years, they have become my closest friends. This started over Facebook and I now talk to each of them several times a day. We do tons together, play dates at each others’ homes, date nights with our husbands, and at least monthly a moms’ night out. We make time for each other, and usually meet during the weeknights around 8:00 p.m. This lets us make dinner for our families and help with bedtime/homework. The best part is that the friendship is easy. The topics are easily discussed because we are on the some page. It is not uncommon to ask for and be given prayers, rosaries, novenas. Nothing is off the table, and I truly feel like this is a gift from God.”
Lastly, I asked Dara Lynn, one of the women who made my time as a first-time mother richer and more manageable, and who, like all these other women continues to sustain my faith life and call to motherhood. Dara Lynn is the mother of two and talks about the particular difficulties of moms trying to find time for each other. Here’s how she manages:
“Some things I’m trying to do to help foster friendships with moms right now include meeting at a coffee shop Friday mornings with four other moms of littles to do a Bible study, which often ends up being a share-fest, where we all unload a little about our weeks and then commiserate with/encourage one another. It’s a good touch point with mom friends that often helps us make follow up plans with each other for play dates or girls’ nights.
Because there’s so little time to actually spend quality time with friends in this season of life, I recently made a list of the eight friends with whom I want to be as intentional as possible with. Those are my most like-minded, spiritually speaking, friendships. That narrowing helps me stay connected and less scattered. Not that I don’t want new friendships, but I realize I have a very finite amount of time/emotional energy to give to any friendships lately, so being realistic about what I can/can’t do helps a little.”
No matter what our strategy to sustain friendships with other faith-filled moms, we must make it a priority. It’s the whole giving yourself the oxygen first in case of emergency on a plane analogy. I can’t be there for my children if I can’t breathe, and I need the faith of other moms to give me that air, that room to breathe. I am grateful for my group of women. I am grateful for the example they set for me. I am grateful for their prayers and their friendship. What are some of the ways the rest of us moms sustain your friendships? What can we learn from each other? How can we keep those bonds of holy motherhood intact for each other? The more we share, the less alone we are and the greater the grace-filled circle of motherhood.
Molly Jo Rose’s column, In and Of the World, focuses on finding God's goodness in the darkest places of the world.